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Preventing Chronic Disease With Simple Nutrition Changes

We all want to be our healthiest selves and, if possible, prevent chronic diseases from developing at some point in our lives. The prospect of living healthier is attractive, of course, but it can be overwhelming because we aren’t quite sure where to start and how to alter our routines.

There are simple nutrition changes that you can make today that can help you prevent chronic diseases. All they require is a quick trip to the grocery store, your local farm stand, or even your own garden.

Chronic Diseases: What are they?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that chronic diseases are “defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.”

Some of the most common are heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease. 6 in 10 adults live with a chronic disease; 4 in 10 live with two or more. They are the leading causes of developing disabilities or dying.

How can food help prevent chronic disease?

Make sure that you are eating a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption are also helpful behaviors in the prevention of chronic disease.

We’re going to give you 6 tips for what you should avoid and what you should eat more of to help you prevent chronic disease.

Tip #1: Reduce red meat and processed meat

We know that lots of people love a cold-cut sandwich for lunch and a great burger or steak for dinner. However, reducing or eliminating red meat as well as processed meats is one way to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD).

According to research presented by Dr. Michelle McMacken during 2018’s American College of Physicians Internal Medicine Meeting, if you eat no meat, you’ll have a 24% to 29% decreased risk of mortality and a 32% decreased risk of cardiovascular disease incident cases.

Processed meat can increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 37%. Consuming 100 grams of red meat per day increases a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer by 17%. 50 grams of processed meat per day increases the risk by 18%,

What can you eat instead? Try:

  • fish
  • chicken and turkey
  • nuts
  • beans
  • low-fat dairy products
  • whole grains

Tip #2: Eat less sugar and salt

We know that sugar and salt are incredibly hard to avoid and they make foods taste delicious, but try to be mindful of how much you are consuming every day. Sugar is empty calories, and contributes to risks for developing diabetes, coronary artery disease (CAD), and weight gain that can lead to obesity. Limiting salt (sodium) will lessen your risk of developing high blood pressure which is a risk factor for stroke and coronary disease.

Tip #3: Don’t consume more calories than you need

Many of us eat because we enjoy it (beyond being hungry), and because there are some foods that we love. One way to limit unnecessary consumption of food (and, so, calories) is to add more fiber to your meals.

Adding only 14 more grams of fiber to your daily meals will help you reduce your caloric intake by 10%–18%, according to Dr. McMacken. Rather than focusing on what you might have to actively choose to not eat, by consuming more fiber, you will reduce your hunger naturally, and it will be easier to avoid eating when you aren’t actually hungry.

Tip #4: Eat more fruits and vegetables

Some people love fruits and veggies, while others aren’t as excited to eat them, we know. If you can get them fresh from your garden or local farm, they will be more likely to be more flavorful than fruits and veggies that have been picked, packaged, stored, and shipped to your grocery store. The more you can eat, the better.

Dr. McMacken points out that two-and-a-half servings of fruits and vegetables a day lowers your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by 8%, having a stroke by 16%, and dying of anything by 10%. If you love fruits and veggies, you’re really in luck, because seven-and-a-half daily servings are associated with a significant 14% reduction in total cancer risk. Eating fruit daily can also decrease your risk of developing diabetes. If you currently have diabetes, eating fruit daily can lower your risk of complications or mortality.

Tip #5: Eat whole grains

The fiber from whole grains has been associated with lower risks of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes. Whole grains also reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer and whole cancer mortality by 17%, according to Dr. McMaken’s research.

Again, because fiber makes you feel fuller quicker, you are less likely to continue eating when you aren’t hungry. That is a great way to help you maintain or lose weight, preventing obesity, which is a contributing factor to many chronic diseases.

Tip #6: Eat more unsaturated fats and omega-3 fats

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature can improve cholesterol, lessen inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms and reduce the risk of developing coronary artery disease. They are found in various plant sources.

There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Great sources of monounsaturated fats are:

  • Olive, peanut, and canola oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans
  • Seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds

Great sources of polyunsaturated fats are:

  • Sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils
  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Fish
  • Canola oil (again!)

Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat that the body cannot make. Fish, flax seeds, walnuts, and canola and soybean oil are great sources of omega-3 fats.

ChooseMyPlate.gov is a website created by the USDA that offers resources, meal suggestions, and tips to help you create nutritious meals to help you maintain your health. If you have questions about your wellness journey, we’re here to help! Contact us today.